My boobs hurt. Periods are due to come any day now. If they started hurting a day or two prior, it would be ok but it starts a week or two earlier. It hurts when I run but I can’t stop running for 2 whole weeks every month. I grit my teeth and run through the pain.
The pain starts when am travelling. I have forgotten to carry my sanitary napkins because my periods are like clockwork and they aren’t due for another week. I am spending all workday surrounded by men. Conservative, middle class men who probably never talk to women outside of work. Men, around whom I can’t buy a sanitary napkin. I spot a Health and Glow next to a store am visiting and pop in and out quickly with a packet of sanitary napkins. I hide it in the laptop bag in the cab without anyone noticing. How will I find a loo and put them on if the periods start is a question left unanswered. One problem at a time.
Normally, I prefer tampons. They are inserted in the vagina and soak the blood. Since the blood doesn’t flow outside the body, there is no smell and I feel cleaner. Working out is 100 times more comfortable with tampons. Sanitary napkins are for night use and when am travelling since tampons have to be replaced every 4 hours and shouldn’t be used all night. Also, if the blood flow is heavy, the blood can leak from tampons. Though sanitary napkins give me rashes when I workout so I avoid them while running or at the gym. Both are uncomfortable when the flow hasn’t started. Tampons need lubrication to hold them in place and sanitary napkins feel itchy. Cups are a thing these days with everyone recommending them but they have to be sterilised. I don’t live in the cave age, thank you very much. Some of us have to travel and have full time jobs without 24/7 access to loos.
I board a metro and feel slightly dizzy. Day 1 of periods are hard. I should’ve taken a cab. None of the seats are empty and I try to ignore the discomfort and pain. How do I ever get any work done on day 1? How do I travel and bear the pain? All I want to do is lie down with a hot water bottle on my tummy. But that is a luxury I can’t afford on a weekday. What if I started taking day 1 as medical leave? That would be 12 days out of 20 days of sick leave gone. Or 7 days of casual leave used up in half the year. And why should I use my earned leave for basic functioning of my body? If corporate slavery demands that I work at 30-50% productivity 1-2 days every month, so be it. Why don’t women in positions of power change anything for the rest of us? Why do they continue with status quo? If we have to break the glass ceiling with pants on to try to blend with the men, what is even the point? We were better cloistered off within patriarchal homes.
I heave a sigh on relief while releasing my bladder. It is time for a tampon change. At work, my cabin and the loo are at extreme ends. I need biometric access to use it. It is like a cruel joke. I enter work sometime around 9.15 am. At 11 am, I tick tock in my heels to the loo for a tampon check. “Is everything ok down there? No. It’s not”. I tick tock back to pick up a clean tampon and then back again for a change. I can feel every man’s eyes on me wondering why am using the loo twice in 5 minutes. The tampon in the palm of my hand or inside my pocket feels sweaty. How did I do it when I used sanitary napkins? “Oh yes. I carried my purse to the loo. Not weird at all”. Thankfully, tampons aren’t advertised so most men don’t know what they look like. If it slipped from my hand and dropped right in front of a group of gossiping men, they probably wouldn’t know what it was. Thank god for small mercies.
On period days I try and wear clothes with pockets. 99% of men’s clothes have pockets but we have to put our foot down and make strong demands even for pockets.
I am about to walk to the loo for the 2nd tampon change when a colleague walks in for a discussion. I can’t focus. My mind is on the wetness in my vagina. “Are my panties getting stained? How much can they stain in 5 mins? Why can’t this man sense my discomfort and disinterest and leave me alone for 5 mins? Has the stain spread to my outer clothes? Is the stain noticeable? What will I do if my clothes get stained? How will I go home discreetly?” If it was a woman, I would have excused myself and she would have understood. Women are intuitive, understanding and don’t have their brains buried under thick sand.
My boobs hurt. My tummy hurts. I am hungry but I can’t eat. My arms and legs are sore. I am horny. If this was Masterchef Australia, the judges would have appreciated the “burst of different flavours in my body – sweet, tangy, spicy, sour; and how well they blend together”. I can’t tell the difference between one pain and another.
But I don’t curse the blood. Because when it stops flowing before its time, there is something seriously wrong with my body. It happened in 2009. I was detected with PCOS. Years and years of working out, taking birth control pills and taking care of my body have made my periods function correctly again. They are a reminder month after month that everything is ok with my body. A painful reminder. An uncomfortable reminder. A missed period would mean PCOS or pregnancy.
The pain suddenly feels like a small price to pay.